The prime minister said it was “entirely right” for the HMS Defender to be in the disputed waters, as No 10 denied Russia’s claims warning shots were fired on the warship and bombs dropped in its path.
Defence secretary Ben Wallace said firing took place “out of range” of the warship, while the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said a “gunnery exercise” had been conducted in the area.
Lord Dannatt, ex-head of the British Army, said Vladimir Putin was “testing the will of the West” with the confrontation. “I’m a little bit surprised that the MoD is playing it down,” he said – adding that the idea the shots fired were merely part of a gunnery exercise was “codswallop”.
Cabinet minister George Eustice said British warships would “of course” sail again through the disputed waters. “We never accepted the annexation of Crimea – these were Ukrainian territorial waters.”